Hair cuttings from salons are being used to mop up oil spills and hair bleaches, and dyes are being burned to create energy as part of a scheme to make the hairdressing industry greener.
Over the past 10 months, 550 salons across the UK and Ireland have signed up to the Green Salon Collective (GSC), an initiative that reduces salon waste through recycling and education programmes.
“Hair salons are one of the biggest contributors to waste on the high street,” said GSC co-founder Paul Seaward. “We were shocked to see how far behind the UK is with salon sustainability, this was long overdue.”
About 99% of hair cuttings from salons are sent to landfill sites, GSC says, but as part of the initiative the group has started collecting cuttings to make hair-booms – cotton or nylon tubes packed with hair, which are placed on the shores of beaches to stop oil spills from spreading.
GSC says 500kg of hair has so far been collected, of which 50kg has been used in cleanup operations.
Other leftover hair is given to farmers to use in compost as it contains protein and nitrogen which enrich plants.
Hair colourings and bleach are usually washed down the sink, which poses a risk as they can leach toxins that pollute soil and groundwater. Salons participating in the scheme are able to collect the waste liquids and send them to a facility to be burned to generate electricity for the National Grid.
The scheme also makes it easier to recycle hairdressing foil, of which only about 1% is recycled. Within the first three months of the scheme, 2.2 tonnes of foil was sent for recycling.
Karine Jackson, whose Covent Garden salon joined GSC last year, said: “Every salon should be joining, we have to take responsibility for our own waste. This is just the start of something huge.”
GSC charges a one-off £125 payment to join the scheme, and encourage salons to add a small “green fee” to their prices to cover this.
Paula Todd, the owner of the Green Ginger salon in Newcastle, said: “The feedback has been so positive, it makes clients value what we do and know that we care a bit more, not just for them but for the whole environment.”
Helen Bird, strategic technical manager for plastics at Wrap, the government’s waste advisory body, said: “With nearly 90% of us now regularly recycling at home, more of us want to ensure that we recycle all that we can at work too. It’s great to hear of initiatives such as the Green Salon Collective to enable the recycling of valuable resources such as aluminium foil.”